RALEIGH — Cam Ward admits he was getting a little antsy.
The Carolina Hurricanes' goalie was all set for the beginning of preseason training camp, having worked hard this summer on his conditioning, only to be held back a few days by an injury referred to as "upper-body stiffness."
But Ward will be the starter in net tonight as the Hurricanes face the Nashville Predators at the RBC Center in their second preseason exhibition game. Canes coach Paul Maurice said Ward could split time with Justin Peters.
"It's going to be nice to get into the swing of things, get that game experience," Ward said Thursday. "It's probably going to be a little bit different, having not played in a game in a long time. That's what the exhibition is for, to fine-tune things and get yourself prepared."
Ward's last game was on April 7. That was the final day of the regular season, when the Hurricanes faced the Tampa Bay Lightning with a playoff spot on the line and were beaten 6-2 at the RBC Center.
After appearing in an NHL-leading 74 games, Ward took time off to rest and relax after the season. But only for so long. He soon was working out, getting in some extra running, drawing raves from Canes trainer Pete Friesen about his conditioning when the players' informal workouts and skates began in late August.
Then, the injury.
"I felt great all summer long and it's crazy how things work out some times," Ward said. "I aggravated an injury right before camp.
"We took the very cautious route towards it, but I was itching to participate in camp and get involved."
Ward, who joined practice Tuesday, did not elaborate on the nature of the injury. He did say it was not related to the back issues he has had in the past.
"It was nothing serious," Ward said.
Brian Boucher started Monday against the Buffalo Sabres in the Canes' first exhibition game - a move Maurice said had been planned before Ward's injury. Boucher kept the Sabres off the board in the first two periods before being relieved by Peters in the third as Buffalo rallied for a 3-1 win.
Maurice said he is eager to see Ward in net tonight but only to a certain extent, quipping, "He's not trying out."
"He's a competitive, competitive man,' Maurice said. If he goes in and has a great start it's not going to change how he feels. The result is not a concern. He's just got to get some work.
"He'll compete hard in there. He always wants to play his best. Exhibition games, scrimmaging with the guys - he always takes it personally. He's ready."
Many of the Canes' veterans did not play Monday in Buffalo but will tonight, including Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen. Defenseman Tomas Kaberle also will make his first exhibition appearance for the Canes.
Maurice will take a second exhibition look at the young defensive tandem of Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy, saying, "The experience now is invaluable for them.".
Maurice said defenseman Derek Joslin, who has been out with an illness, would return to practice today. Forwards Chad LaRose and Patrick Dwyer, who both suffered lower-body injuries in the Buffalo game, could be back Monday, Maurice said.
NOTE: The Canes cut six players from the training camp roster Thursday, reducing it to 43 players.
Assigned to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League were forwards Matt Pistilli and Justin Soryal; defensemen Brett Bellemore, Kyle Lawson and Chris Murray, and goaltender John Muse. The Checkers' training camp begins Monday.
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